The ride from Desaguadero into La Paz is easy and fast along a pretty good road aside from the (Colca) canyon-sized (it ain't that deep) wheel troughs worn into the soft asphalt by heavy trucks. There was 1 military stop just leaving Desaguadero that charged us 5 Bs each to pass. The next toll, where we thought we'd have to pay again based on the policemen's info, we were just waved through.
Entering La Paz at El Alto is a hectic intro to the city. There are cars and buses driving crazy Latin American style combined with a string of pedestrians at varying levels of encroachment into the lanes of traffic, mostly trying to catch the buses.
(and the smog and emissions were nice, too)
(we only witnessed one loud crash, but thankfully weren't directly involved. Then we found the turn off to drop into the centro, a wide, almost empty road that provided some great views of the city)
(overlooking La Paz)
We ended up fighting our way through the downtown traffic and one way streets to get to a cluster of hostels. La Blanquita had space for us and our bikes, so to La Blanquita we went. It's located right near the witches market on Santa Cruz and provided a good starting point to explore La Paz.
(the bikes didn't stay in the lobby the entire time, there was a back hallway where they lived)
The downtown area of La Paz is a great place to walk around and explore. There are beautiful buildings on one block, followed by a very dilapidated block with interesting shops and restaurants to be followed by an amazing park with greenery or another nice plaza, followed by some other random site. You just never know, and that's fun.
(witches market, now more of a tourist attraction than purpose based market, but still interesting)
(one of the witches markets most well known features - llama fetuses. Burying one underneath a new house brings good luck. Jill was interested in using one as a good luck charm on the Transalp, but that was quickly vetoed.)
(They're hard to look at, especially cause llamas are just so damn cute. But the stands do all sell other teas, herbs, tonics and such)
(back to less offensive pictures now. This is Plaza Murillo)
(a nice mural near the comedor popular)
(Jill found some KC BBQ!! (but sadly they were closed))
We toured the coca museum while there and it was well worth the 10 Bs (~US$1.50) entry. They had a ton of information on the history of coca production, its use over the past millenia, how processing coca into cocaine changes its uses and chemical structure, etc. They also have a tasting room upstairs where you can try different drinks infused with coca. Jill and I tried a liquor distilled from coca leaves and it was fantastic. Too bad we're never going to be able to find that in the states...
Old school short buses dominate the downtown streets of La Paz (see example below). Except for the day they were on strike. Then Mike got to dominate the streets (man, it was so nice to run moto errands without traffic!) We found a new rear tire for a good price through some shopping around. the first quote for an MT-60 was 770 Bs (US$110), which isn't a great price, but comparable to a quote received in Lima of S/270 (US$100). Since we were in auto/moto/tire district (not unlike hammock district), we asked in a couple of other shops.
Hank Scorpio: Uh, hi, Homer. What can I do for you?
Homer: Sir, I need to know where I can get some business hammocks.
Hank Scorpio: Hammocks? My goodness, what an idea. Why didn't I think of that? Hammocks! Homer, there's four places. There's the Hammock Hut, that's on third.
Hank Scorpio: There's Hammocks-R-Us, that's on third too. You got Put-Your-Butt-There.
Hank Scorpio: That's on third. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot... Matter of fact, they're all in the same complex; it's the hammock complex on third.
Homer: Oh, the hammock district!
Hank Scorpio: That's right.
Next quote was right around 700 Bs, then 580 Bs, or US$83. I told them I'd be back at 2 for it (after their, and my, lunch). The place is Tufimotores, dropped in based on Guillaume's info provided HERE
(incl GPS coords: S16°30.239' W68°08.241' - intersection of Colombia and Boqueron). Turns out I showed back up at 3 because we never changed our clocks forward, but thankfully they were still happy to help me out. Then the fun began.
They directed me to a street where moto mechanics and tire shops were (as opposed to parts and supplies, more mechanics) just a few streets away, on Calle Landaeta. I found it pretty quick thanks to the complete lack of traffic and the GPS. But I couldn't find a place to help me throw the new tire on. In most places in Latin America, US$2 will have this job done in minutes, wherever you are. I had to coerce a tire shop guy to do it. He would've rather sat there and talked to his friend than make that bit extra. I was even the one pulling the wheel off, leaving him just the tire swap itself. Eventually he did it, but man that new rubber didn't want to seat well. It took him about 4 times of high pressure fills before it was in the round (some soapy water would've certainly helped, but apparently he's against it). Next stop was an oil change. I had bought oil with the tire and just needed a place with a new filter and catch pan. after asking at a number of places I was sent back to the original parts street that I was on earlier that day. An auto filter store got me what I needed, and back over to the mechanic street, since no one on this street had a catch pan I could use for the old oil.
I found a shop that would let me drop my old oil. And the guy even let me borrow his filter wrench and funnel, too. Turns out he had all the oil and filters I needed as well, but it was too late for that. No charge for him helping out. When we were riding on the hills of La Paz, I noticed just how rich the bike was running. Some of that from a mostly clogged air filter, but also figuring that the air-fuel mixture setting was on the rich side given the elevation of La Paz (3700 m give or take). So I screwed the setting in, hitting a (temporary) sweet spot somewhere around 1/2 of a turn out. That's not much fuel. She'd been running happy at around 2 turns at elevation, closer to 3 at sea level. Knowing that chances were about 0 of finding an air filter that would fit this bike's specific set up, I just went for it and figured I'd sort it out in Cochabamba, where we will stay for a month. Not the best idea ever. Stay tuned for upcoming details on that one...
Also, I noticed that not only did we have a longstanding exhaust leak where our header pipes joined the muffler extension, but that the muffler was no longer bolted to the bike. So it was just dangling by about 1 cm of exhaust tube overlap. Across the street was a general welder, but he didn't have the capability to weld aluminum, which the muffler and bracket are. thankfully he sent me to a tornería (=machine shop) not too far away, but without specific directions. With only 2 questions I pulled up in front of it and they were able to help me out. They were great! This part of town isn't the best part of town, but it wasn't so bad either. The owner did warn me to keep an eye on all my parts as I took them off, and even offered space inside to work, but it wasn't that big of a deal, so I stayed on the street out of their way. They even have an employee who speaks pretty good English and likes to practice it. Within an hour and half they had welded the aluminum bracket back on the silencer and closed up the exhaust leak with a nice fat bead. I didn't have the camera with me so no photos of the shop, but if you need it, it's near the Estadio Simon Bolívar at Calle Landaeta and Av Jaimes Freyre:
Calle José Saravia No 225
La Paz, Bolivia
Tel: 2 414914
GPS: S 16 deg 30.807 min / W 068 deg 08.474 min
(Aluminum mounting bracket after being welded, then ground down to fit under the luggage rack (black part). Both welds have held up through a few days of off roading in the Yungas and elsewhere in Bolivia, so seems to be good work.)
After a successful afternoon of driving back and forth between a few very specific parts of town, I finally made it back to meet Jill and Mark at the hostel at 7 pm, or so we thought...it was really 8pm. We figured that whole time change thing out that evening. And drank a beer. Paceña is cheap, easy to find, and drinkable. Huari made by the same brewery is usually about 3Bs more and actually does taste about that much better.
(as is our custom, we'll leave you with some street art from La Paz)